Lynn is a member of The Clergy Project as one of the small but growing number of female clergy. Lynn is a current participant in the 2nd phase of the Daniel Dennet/Linda LaScola study sponsored by Tufts University and The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science on Pastors who no Longer Believe. Lynn has been featured along with Dan Barker on The Thinking Atheist’s Radio Show entitled, “Pastors Who Believe” and in the RDFRS article on The Clergy Project.
One other interesting note about Lynn… Lynn is the Agnostic Pastor.
Let me share my story.
Life takes many strange turns. In my life, If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be writing a story about my journey from faith to atheism, I’d probably called the elders of my church and held an all night prayer meeting for your soul! Yet, here I am. An active pastor, well-known, well-respected and an atheist. I didn’t start out thinking that I would lose my faith. As a matter of fact, I believed that my faith was so strong that it could withstand anything. It turns out that it could withstand most things, but not the truth. You see, I followed Christ all these years thinking he was the truth but I’ve finally realized recently that the faith I’d followed all those years was just a house of cards. Whoosh! A puff of the wind of reason and they all come tumblin’ down.
My story is probably similar to many you’ve heard before. I grew up as a PK, a preacher’s kid. But unlike some of the ones who were wild, I was just the opposite. I was 100% sold out for God. I loved church, I love God, I loved being a believer. I felt ‘called’ into ministry at a very early age. I spent the majority of my young life and early adulthood pursing ministry. When I finally accepted my first pastorate, I was filled with such excitement! I was going to change the world for Christ! Preaching the gospel to all those souls bound for hell was my passion. I could feel god speaking through me and many people made professions of faith or experienced god’s work in their lives. Now before you think that I’m way too full of myself, let me explain. The argument has been put forth that those of us who have walked away from our faith never really had a true experience with god. As you can see from what I’ve shared, I had an experience! If I wasn’t a true believer, then no one was. I was just as sold out and on fire for god as anyone I knew! So what went wrong?
I’ve had questions for a long time now. Little things in the Bible would pop up and cause me to question. But like a good little Christian, I told myself that ‘god’s ways were higher than my ways’ so how could I, a mere mortal, understand the ways of god. So I filled these questions away in a safe little drawer in the back of my mind. Time would pass and I’d do pretty well for a while and then another question would pop up. Those questions would be relegated to the special little drawer in the back of my mind again. You know the kind of questions I’m talking about. The ones where the Bible is contradictory, so we skip those passages. Or the ones that are so tough, you hope no one ever asks you! Like, “Where was god when the earthquake, tsunami, hurricane hit and killed so many innocent people?” or “How could god condemn someone to hell who has never even heard of him?” Those questions. When those thoughts came back, I’d banish them to their dungeon. The problem with that special little space where I filed all the questions and doubts was that it started to fill up. About ten years ago, the drawer was so full that it began to overflow into my mind. I couldn’t tuck things away and ignore them. I was forced to peek out of my spiritual fog and begin dealing with the questions.
I began a crusade of sorts, digging through any information that I could find to work out my questions. Honestly, I started this journey of discovery to find a way to answer the questions from a spiritual standpoint. I still believed when I began working through all of this that the process would make me that much stronger in my faith. I didn’t realize that this process of discovery would be the very path that led me out of the fog of faith and into the light of reason. Piece by piece as I dug through those drawers, my faith began to change. At first, I simply morphed into a different kind of Christian. I became a liberal and then, when that didn’t answer the questions, I moved into the emergent church arena. Little by little as I grew in my knowledge, the light began to dawn on me.
I considered myself an ‘agnostic Christian’ at first. That was kind of safe… I could handle that. It wasn’t long before the ‘Christian’ part of it went away and I was just agnostic. As a matter of fact, when I began this website (The Agnostic Pastor) and became a part of The Clergy Project, I considered myself an agnostic. I guess the big “A” word was just to hard for me to accept then. Looking back, I can see that I’d actually been an atheist for some time, I just didn’t realize it.
Now, here I am. A pastor and an atheist. This has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I look forward to the day when I can hop in my car and leave god in the rearview mirror. I have a plan…I’m working hard to get out…but for now I must remain in hiding. My time will come and then I can be real for a change!
UPDATE: I’m very happy to say that I no longer have to live a lie. My struggle with all this led me to take the step that needed to be taken and leave the ministry. I’m no longer a pastor. Many may question the steps I’ve taken…I’ve had questions myself. But the things I did and the steps I’ve taken were to create as safe an exit as possible.
I know that there are those who will attack these decisions. I hope you understand the torture that the realization that I’d lost my faith inflicted upon me. I made my exit as quickly as possible after I’d become convinced that I no longer believed.